The delicate blue wild flower grows around Dent de Rez Mountain, peak of the area. It is also cultivated in the valley or on the lime stone plateau. In full blossom, lavender is extremely fragrant, and in early summer the fields are covered with purple buds promising numerous benefits.
« True lavender » (Lavandula angustifolia) is native to Mediterranean climate and has become the symbol of Provence.
The legendary and over thousand year old very robust, perennial and aromatic plant grows in dry and sunny mountain areas, on limestone soils above 600m of altitude. Its yield is low with about 15 to 20 kg of essential oil per hectare. A hybrid of lavender called “Lavandin”, crossed with lavender aspic (Lavendula latifolia) is grown in the plains at lower altitude and accounts for 90% of lavender production in France. “Lavandin” yields 3 to 10 times more essential oil then “true” lavender per hectare!
Way back the Romans used lavender to perfume their bath and take care of their linen. In the Middle-Ages it was used in Provence for its disinfecting powers, in particular against the Plague and as a fragrance. The rise of lavender cultivation truly started in the 19th century with the development of perfume industry in the Grasse area.
The multiple uses of lavender
“True” lavender is primarily used to extract essential oil used for perfumes, cosmetics and aromatherapy. Its soothing and antiseptic properties help fight digestive disorders and activate blood circulation.
« Lavandin » essential oil contains more camphor and is mainly used in the industry to perfume washing powders and soaps. It also has disinfecting properties and repels insects.
A bag of dried lavender flowers in your wardrobe will prove a great moth repellent. Some creative chefs use lavender to enhance the taste of their dishes and desserts.
In a simpler way, a bunch of lavender is appreciated for its beautiful color and bouquets are even sometimes thrown over the bride at weddings in Provence.
« Les émerveilleurs » (Enthusiasts)
In our area numerous enthusiasts are happy to share their passion about this legendary plant with visitors: Claude Chautard welcomes you at his farm on the limestone plateau in Gras. As an organic farmer he harvests wild lavender at the foot of the Dent de Rez Mountain and cultivates it with great care. He distills and transforms lavender into high quality cosmetic products – soaps and oils which he sells in his “Bleu de Blancard” shop. A little further away, the distillery of Gras, the only one in the Ardèche region, produces each year around 30 tons of “Lavandin” essence.
The tiny shop “L’Essentiel” in the hamlet Les Hellys offers essential oils and an array of homemade local produce.
The Lavender Museum in Saint-Remèze is worth a visit. It reveals all aspects from cultivation to distillation and is surrounded by lavender fields.
Moreover, the Tourist Office organizes Lavender theme days for groups (reservation required).